Remembering the Life and Career of Robert Conrad Before, During and After ‘The Wild Wild West’

From the Old West to World War II and the worlds of private eyes and super spies — and daring you to knock that Eveready battery off his shoulder in commercials — Robert Conrad made a career of playing TV tough guys and leading men. Whether it was Hawaiian Eye at the end of the 1950s, The Wild Wild West in the 1960s or Baa Baa Black Sheep and A Man Called Sloane in the 1970s (among others), he managed to endear himself to generations of viewers. Now, at the age of 84, Robert has passed away of natural causes.

In explaining his career longevity — which spanned some 50 years and, beyond various TV series, included features and TV movies — he noted to, “I think it’s that I’ve had the opportunity to do different things. When I was younger, I was a singer. Then, I came out to Hollywood and became an actor and, as part of my acting talent, I came into directing and writing, and it just kind of kept moving forward. When I was young, I thought I was going to be the President of the Teamsters. When I got older, I thought I was going to have a singing career. Then, I fell into acting and it turned out to be the career I wanted.”

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Robert was born Conrad Robert Falk on March 1, 1935 in Chicago, Illinois. He dropped out of school at the age of 15 and began living on his own and working various jobs, among them driving a milk delivery truck and loading trucks for Consolidated Freightways. During that time he also began studying theater arts at Northwestern University, which led to his full-blown interest in an acting career. Based on the fact that people said he looked a lot like James Dean, his first gig was posing outside a Chicago theater where that actor’s Giant was playing.

He moved to California in 1957, scoring a bit part in the film Juvenile Jungle. This led to a contract with Warner Bros, that, because he had had some training as a singer, led to him also recording some music — the song “Bye Bye Baby” became a minor hit for him. In 1959 he began making TV guest starring appearances on a number of shows, including Bat MastersonMaverickSea Hunt and Colt .45.

His big break came in 1959 when he was cast as Detective Tom Lopaka on the detective series 77 Sunset Strip, which ran on ABC from 1958 to 1964. He appeared on four episodes of the show and was then spun off into his own series, Hawaiian Eye.

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